Laptop Evo-Lution

Compaq’s new Evo N200 is a mini notebook that packs a punch. The 2.5-pound notebook features a 700MHz Pentium III-M (Intel’s mobile PIII chip) and 192MB of RAM. While our test focused more on usability than benchmarks, we can tell you the N200 is a speed demon.

In terms of power, the tiny laptop is a more-than-adequate tool for word processing, e-mail, and simple spreadsheets. But if you’re looking to do more, the 10.4-inch active-matrix LCD might fall a bit short. The N200 we tested had a dark screen that didn’t improve with adjustment. This could prove difficult in low-light conditions, say, on an evening flight. (Compaq shipped a second unit that was just as dark, so we stuck with the first one.)

The N200 ships with the basics (two USB ports, PC Card slot, 10/100 Ethernet connection, and so on); but for multimedia, you’ll have to purchase a Mobile Expansion Unit (MEU) with a CD-ROM, or a CD-RW, or a DVD drive. That will add nearly 3 pounds to your laptop bag but it’s worth the weight to have multimedia functionality. ($1,799; www.compaq.com).

Oh Mio, My-O
Polaroid’s new Mio instant camera is sure to elicit oohs and ahhs. Its metallic silver exterior and curvy form make it an attractive option to other instant cameras. And rather than the usual large, instant pictures, the mio delivers photos that are about the size of a business card (2 x 3.5 inches). The camera also has a built-in automatic flash and a digital readout that lets you know how many shots you have left.

But once the novelty wears off, what do you have? For starters, you have an instant camera that, although attractive, is awkward to use; and its bulky frame may have you wishing for a tiny digital camera. Although we don’t profess to be technology geniuses, it did take us a while to figure out the proper way to hold the camera. And while instant gratification is sometimes good, the quality of the photo isn’t much to write home about. True, the mio looks sleek and sophisticated; but as we all know, looks aren’t everything. (Camera, $99.99; twin pack of film, $19.95; www.polaroid.com)

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